New York Rangers: Chris Kreider and the Aroldis Chapman scenario

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 18: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees reacts after defeating the Houston Astros in game five of the American League Championship Series with a score of 4 to 1 at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are on the verge of trading Chris Kreider.  Is this the last we see him in a Ranger uniform or could he follow the example of Aroldis Chapman and return to New York as a free agent?

The Aroldis Chapman story is a win-win for the New York Yankees and fans of the New York Rangers can dream of it happening to them.  You remember the situation?  The Yankees traded Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in July 2016.  He went on to star as closer for the Cubs as they went all the way, winning the 2016 World Series.  That winter, as a free agent, he re-signed with the Yankees.  For “lending” the Cubs their closer, Chicago traded four players to the Yankees including potential superstar Gleyber Torres.

Could this scenario be replayed in New York with Chris Kreider?  Could the Rangers trade Kreider to a contender, extracting a king’s ransom for their star winger and then re-sign him to a team friendly contract this summer?

Why it could happen

The ball is completely in Chris Kreider’s court.  This a non-starter if he is strictly looking for the biggest payday of his career.  There is no doubt that he will be able to get a contract similar to the deal his buddy, Kevin Hayes, was able to get from the Philadelphia Flyers  worth $7.1 million a year.  If it’s all about the money, consider Kreider gone.

But, if Kreider bleeds Ranger blue and wants to finish his career as Mika Zibanejad’s wing man he may, emphasize may, be willing to sign for a shorter term and a reasonable rate.  Whether the Rangers could come up with the dollars necessary to get the deal done remains a challenge, but if Kreider wants to come back, this could be a possiblity.

It would definitely be in the Rangers’ favor if his new team (Boston, St. Louis???) goes all the way and wins the Stanley Cup.  With a championship ring, what would be more appropriate than for Kreider to come back to lead his youthful Blueshirts to the promised land.

It has happened before

It’s extremely rare for a player to be traded at the deadline and return to the team that traded him.  In fact, since the 2004-05 lockout, it has only happened three times, with each situation unique in its own way.

Dough Weight was a Ranger draft choice who was traded to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen.  After eight years as an Oiler, Weight was swapped to the St. Louis Blues where he played four years. In January 2006 as the deadline neared, he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes.  The Canes went on to win the Stanley Cup that spring, the only championship of his career.  That summer he returned to the Blues, signing with them as UFA.

Keith Tkachuk had stints in Winnipeg and Arizona before settling in with the St. Louis Blues.  He led them to the Western Conference Finals in 2001.  At the deadline in February 2007, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for first, second and third round draft picks.  After being eliminated in four games in the playoffs, the Thrashers promptly traded him back to the Blues for a fourth round pick and he re-signed with the Blues where he finished his career.

The other instance involved former Ranger Vinny Prospal.  There was no free agency in this one, but it was all trades.  At the deadline in February 2008, the Philadelphia Flyers sent a second round pick and a prospect to Tampa for the winger.  As soon as they were eliminated in the playoffs, the Flyers promptly swapped the pending UFA back to Tampa for a 4th and 7th round pick.  Because of the trade, the Lightning had first crack at re-signing him and he inked a four year deal before he hit the open market.

Why it is a great idea

It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?  As a rental, Kreider would bring a short-term benefit to his new team.  In exchange, the Rangers could extract a high draft pick and an NHL ready prospect. Next season, Kreider would have the benefit of playing alongside the player he was traded for. Meanwhile, the team that gave up that pick and player would be that much weaker, a situation that can only benefit the Blueshirts.   That’s why a trade to the Islanders would actually be kind of delicious.  In exchange for a few weeks of Kreider tip-ins, the Rangers could weaken the prospect pool of a hated rival.

As stated, the ball is in Kreider’s court.  He will most likely be traded and will then hit the free agent marketplace.  If he wants to play in New York for the Rangers, he can make that happen, but he will have to sacrifice term and dollars.  We shall see.

Oh, one thing worth noting about Aroldis Chapman.  When he re-signed with the Yankees, he signed for five years and $86 million, the richest contract ever given to a major league relief pitcher.  As far as the Rangers go, that’s not happening with Chris Kreider.